Dental Prophylaxis 1

Dental Prophylaxis

Dental prophylaxis is more commonly referred to as dental cleaning, and it is undoubtedly one of the most important parts of preventative dental care. The entire purpose of dental prophylaxis is to protect an individual’s oral health by preventing against and halting the progression of periodontal disease and gingivitis through the elimination of bacteria in the mouth. While an individual who thoroughly and properly brushes and flosses their teeth every day will be able to address and handle many of the bacterial issues that may otherwise lead to periodontal disease and gingivitis, the fact is that they simply don’t have the professional tools or know-how to effectively see or resolve all potential issues. This is where dental prophylaxis comes in.

The Reason Behind Dental Prophylaxis

The main threat to oral health is bacteria. This bacteria can be introduced into the mouth in a variety of ways, not the least of which is through food particles that become lodged in or between teeth and are not removed through normal daily brushing and flossing. Over time, this bacteria can build up into the soft, sticky substance known as plaque, which in turn can build up into a hard mineral deposit known as tartar.

Periodontal disease and gingivitis are the result of bacteria attacking the gum tissue above or below the gum line, causing irritation and inflammation. In response to this threat, the body will begin to attack and destroy both gum and bone tissue, which can lead to shifting, unstable teeth and periodontal pockets that allow the bacteria a way to travel through the bloodstream to other areas of the body. Obviously this can lead to other general health issues, which means that protecting one’s oral health is extremely important.

Even the most thorough brushing and flossing may be unable to remove all of the debris, bacteria and plaque above and below the gum line, and no amount of home treatment can successfully remove hardened tartar from the teeth. Dentists and dental hygienists are specially trained to recognize and resolve these problems, and have specialized dental tools and procedures that make it possible to actually remove everything that can be a threat to oral health. This naturally leads to fresher breath, as halitosis is often caused by various oral health issues, including rotting food particles lying below the gum line, gum infection and periodontal problems. Dental prophylaxis can also help to remove unsightly stains, as the teeth are polished with an abrasive toothpaste that is more powerful than the toothpastes individuals have at home.

The Dental Prophylaxis Procedure

Dental prophylaxis is recommended at least twice a year for both children and adults, but in cases where an individual is suffering from extensive general or oral health issues their dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings. The main parts of dental prophylaxis include:

Tooth scaling. Referred to as supragingival cleaning, tooth scaling occurs when the dentist or dental hygienist uses a scaling tool to scrape all plaque and tartar off the surfaces of the teeth that are above the gum line.
Gum pocket cleaning. Referred to as subgingival cleaning, gum pocket cleaning allows the dentist or dental hygienist to remove tartar from beneath the gum line and in gum pockets.
Root planing. Any remaining bacteria below the gum line is eliminated through root planing, or the smoothing of the actual root of the tooth.

X-rays can also be an important part of a dental prophylaxis treatment, as they can help to reveal any problems that lie below the surface or are just beginning and are as yet not clearly visible in the mouth. Many dentists recommend annual dental x-rays, though again a patient who suffers from more extensive oral or general health issues may need them more frequently as part of their overall oral health care.

Dentists normally recommend that at least a very gentle form of dental prophylaxis treatments begin shortly after teeth begin to erupt in a child’s mouth, usually between one to two years of age, and continue regularly from there. Additional care, such as tooth sealants and fluoride treatments, may be recommended for those individuals who seem particularly susceptible to periodontal issues


Request an Appointment